For those who are home, and for those who are on the way. For those who support the historic and just return of the land of Israel to its people, forever loyal to their inheritance, and its restoration.
'Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion; for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in your midst, says G-d. And many nations shall join themselves to G-d in that day, and shall be My people, and I will dwell in your midst; and you will know that the G-d of hosts has sent me to you. And G-d willl inherit Judah as His portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again. (From this week's haftarah, Zecharia 2:14-16)
"Things are tough in the Land of Israel," said the Jews who made aliyah after the Cyrus Declaration. "We can't make ends meet, the Samarians who were brought to the Land harm us, and the good, fat exile beckons."
And then, Zecharia the prophet makes an odd declaration. He calls upon the suffering new immigrants to build the Temple in Jerusalem as a solution to all their problems. G-d will imbue the Land with His Divine Presence, the non-Jews will admire Israel and Judah will inherit its Land. It sounds out of touch with reality.
But reality proves that when a nation has a spiritual focal point, it flourishes. When Zechariah related his prophecy, Israel still did not have political independence, but the building of the Temple restored vitality to the nation and the Land of Israel regained its status as spiritual center of the Jewish Nation. The nation that had been exiled from its Land 70 years ago and was apparently doomed to extinction triumphantly returned to the stage of history.
Two hundred years later, evil winds once again gusted through the Land. This time, the main danger was internal. The Hellenist globalization process had been at work for years and in the Land of Israel, many succumbed to assimilation and loss of their Jewish identity. The public leaders were Hellenists and used their power - even the position of High Priest - to achieve their goals. Most of the public was enchanted with Greek culture and sport and did not notice that it was losing its identity, its uniqueness and most of all - its Jewish destiny.
But the Hellenists were impatient. They wanted to finish the process quickly and what they could not achieve with the lures of their culture, they chose to achieve by coercion. "Use force against Israel," wrote Gideon Levi of the Ha'aretz newspaper to Barack Obama. The Hellenist leaders in Jerusalem used the same logic and convinced Antiochus to impose his evil decrees against the Jews.
That is the point where the tables turned. The Nation of Israel came back to its senses. When the traditional Jews felt that they had to choose between their loyalty to their nation, Land and G-d or the charms of universal culture, they quite unexpectedly chose their loyalty to their Jewish identity. Their choice had implications much more serious than a few weeks in a military prison or loss of their source of income. It was a choice between life and death. Perhaps because the choice was so fateful, the answer was so loud and clear.
The holiday of Chanukah is the holiday of the triumph of Jewish identity. "Not with military might and not with power, but with My spirit, says the G-d of hosts." (From this week's haftara, Zecharia 4:6) We will continue to struggle for Jewish leadership that will build the Holy Temple and re-fashion the State of Israel as the spiritual center that illuminates the entire world. The Jewish People always triumphs and with G-d's help, we will triumph this time, as well.
I visited Hevron in November 2000 after the outbreak of the Rosh Hashanah War to see what could be done to assist in the face of the growing daily attacks on the community. After returning to work for the community in the summer of 2001, a bond and a love was forged that grows to this day. My wife Melody and I merited to be married at Ma'arat HaMachpela and now host visitors from throughout the world every Shabbat as well as during the week. Our goal, "Time to come Home!"